For once, it wasn't the offense that was the problem.
The New York Islanders managed to score four goals for the first time in 10 games, but the slumping power play couldn't add to that total and defensive lapses set the table for Thomas Greiss to give up six goals on 41 shots. An empty netter at the end completed a 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Tampa.
A crazy evening had the Islanders take the first lead before playing catch-up the rest of the game, as the teams combined for four different occasions where pairs of goals were scored, um, like lightning.
The Isles missed a chance to hop back over the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division race, while the Lightning took over first place in the Atlantic by pulling back into a tie with the Panthers. It cost the Lightning key defenseman Anton Stralman, who fractured his leg in a tangle with Anders Lee.
First Period: This is going to be a theme, isn't it
The Islanders had three power plays in the opening 10 minutes but failed to score on any of the six shots that reached Ben Bishop. It took Brock Nelson at even strength, between the second and third power plays, to open scoring. His one-timer from the left wing faceoff circle beat Bishop upstairs on a nice feed from Ryan Strome after a good entry by Josh Bailey. The Lightning also lost Stralman in that stretch, but they didn't let it get them down.
But then, the quick strikes began.
Nikita Kucherov tied it five minutes after Nelson's goal with a sweet high-slot redirection as the Lightning moved the puck around well in the Isles zone.
Off the ensuing faceoff the Lightning executed their forecheck and forced Thomas Hickey into a turnover behind the net that Vladislav Namestnikov finished to make it 2-1 and overturn the Isles lead in just a nine-second span.
Second Period: More zaniness
The Lightning had the greater share of play and scoring chances through two periods, but the Isles used some opportune scoring and good penalty killing -- including a bad goalie interference call on Casey Cizikas after he and Bishop's skates collided outside of the crease -- to reach the second intermission tied 3-3.
It didn't look like that would be possible when the Lightning scored an insurance goal five minutes into the second period. Kucherov turned Matt Martin inside and out at the Isles blueline to free up Jason Garrison for a shot, the rebound of which landed perfectly for Steven Stamkos on the doorstep.
But then Shane Prince delivered an outstanding individual play to get one back just 22 seconds later. He forced a turnover at the Isles blueline, used his speed to outrace the defense, and when the passing lane to Anders Lee was fully covered, he rifled a shot just under the bar on the far glove side of Bishop.
With under four minutes remaining in the second, Johnny Boychuk's shot of a wobbling puck from the point was deflected past Bishop thanks to Andrej Sustr's deflection in front.
Third Period: The jig is up
In the third period, Ryan Pulock added another name to his growing casualty list when his slap shot went off Kucherov's toe and sent him to the bench to wallow in the pain. But not long afterward, the Lightning took another lead, again using Martin as a foil at the point. Sustr's go-ahead goal threaded through a shot block attempt by Martin, who was at just the right distance to make it hard for Greiss to pick up.
Yet again, the Isles struck back quickly. Just 19 seconds later, on an innocent one-man zone entry, Nikolay Kulemin shifted his angle and used Braydon Coburn's stick as a screen to handcuff Bishop for an equalizer. That tied it at 4-4 with 12 minutes left to go.
That wasn't going to last long.
Four minutes later the Lightning had a 6-4 lead. Tyler Johnson got the go-ahead goal after a bit of a fluky bounce on a save by Greiss. The Isles had three guys back but none could locate the puck before Johnson. Then the defense fell asleep for Garrison to make it 6-4 23 seconds later. He pinched in and slipped behind Thomas Hickey to accept an Ondrej Palat cross-ice pass that he rifled upstairs.
All of these sudden twists and turns were like a warmup for the torturous emotions that await when the playoffs begin next month.
After sustained but unconvincing pressure in the Lightning zone with Greiss pulled for a sixth attacker, Viktor Hedman relieved a tired fivesome of Lightning by lifting a backhand the length of the ice and into the empty net.
Greiss made several dozen saves so it could have been worse, but he also looked a little scrambly around the crease, which aligned with the quality of the defensive effort in front of him. On the other side, Bishop certainly looked no better on three of the four goals he gave up. Put that all together and you have a high-scoring game, and the barn burner Lightning coach Jon Cooper predicted.
No rest, no pity: Tomorrow the Isles are in Raleigh for what feels like a not-must-but-really-oughtta-win against the Hurricanes. After that is their final occasion of two days between games until the end of the season.